newspaper design
classified design
web design
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newspaper redesign
classified redesign


Top 10 redesign tips

By Alan Jacobson, Brass Tacks Design

We recently delivered classified redesigns for two Tribune newspapers – the Hartford Courant and the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. – and the Omaha World-Herald. All three redesigns were complete makeovers, including banners, classification headings, liners, advertorial products and house ads.

Hartford will part with conventional wisdom and launch a bold, new design for both their print classifieds in the Courant and their online classifieds at A single visual brand and navigation system will unite and fortify both classified franchises and set them apart from editorial content in print and online. The new design features enhanced navigation, improved legibility and dramatic use of imagery.

Omaha goes even further by using the classified banner to promote readership with a dramatic, 10-column color photo everyday.

All three projects tested overwhelmingly positive with focus groups in Connecticut, Virginia and Nebraska. Respondents said the new designs made the classified sections easier to read and easier to use. This research confirmed our hunches about ways to improve Classified.

Here are the top ten things we did that you should consider doing:

1. Make your classifieds easier to read. If you're using a generic sans serif font like Helvetica for your liners, consider switching to a font designed specifically to make small type more legible.

2. Make your classifieds easier to use. Design your main banner, classification headings and subheadings to help readers find what they're looking for.

3. Eliminate the numerical classification system. That's right, you can dump it. We found that almost no one uses it.

4. Eliminate the index. Yep, you can drop this fixture too. Readers use in-column classification headings to find what they're looking for. Surprisingly, most readers weren't aware that classified sections had indexes.

5. Reduce the amount of marketing information in the banner. Like the numerical classification system and the index, most readers ignore pricing and deadline information in the main banner. They prefer to get this information from a sales rep on the telephone. Reducing or eliminating this information will allow for a cleaner, more attractive banner that can emphasize the information most important to your customers.

6. Emphasize the phone number to call to place an ad. This one piece of information was most important to customers. You should also include the number for Circulation to avoid misdirected calls to your sales force from readers who had delivery problems.

7. Use your print product to boost awareness of online product. We believe the newspaper classified franchise is at risk from other providers of information via the Internet. So we've been encouraging our clients to promote their online classifieds. Surprisingly, few readers were aware that classifieds are available online – even in markets where the online product had been promoted.

8. Promote the advantages of the online. It isn't enough to say that your classifieds are available online. Begin by emphasizing these advantages of your online classifieds:

• Timeliness: Ads can be posted and delivered sooner than the daily paper.

• Keyword searching: No need to rifle through pages.

• Broader searches: Most newspaper sites provide access to national listings of cars, jobs and homes.

• Value-added content: Mortgage calculators, neighborhood profiles and auto reviews help users make buying decisions.

• Legibility: Users can enlarge text on their screens to suit their reading preferences.

• No ruboff: Online classifieds are clean and green.

9. Use Classified to boost readership. Editorial content isn't the only reason people buy newspapers. In some markets, advertising is cited as the top reason for buying the paper – particularly on Sunday. Classified is also a draw for single-copy purchasers. Take advantage of these opportunities by giving Classified a well designed, visually engaging cover. Anchor the section every day with a full color front. Build a library of banners, rotating through the selections every day to give readers an ever-changing visual experience.

10. Redesign everything. Don't stop with the main banner. Redesign your liner typography, category headers and house ads. Every part of Classified should receive as much design attention as the rest of the paper. And don't forget your advertorial products. These sections shouldn't look like poor cousins of the editorial product. Make sure they possess the same level of design sophistication as every section in the paper.

Alan Jacobson leads Brass Tacks Design, which provides marketing, editorial, design and technical support to newspapers worldwide. Clients include The New York Times, the Washington Post Company, Knight-Ridder, Tribune, Gannett, Hearst and Newhouse. Current projects include editorial and classified redesigns for the Omaha World-Herald. Alan can be reached at or via Brass Tacks' Web site


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Hartford Courant

Omaha World Herald

Daily Press, Newport News, VA